Parkinson’s disease refers to a condition where a part of the brain becomes damaged in a progressive manner over many years. On the other hand, Huntington disease is an inherited disease that leads to the wasting away of certain nerve cells in the brain. Those suffering from the disease are born with the defective gene, but the symptoms only appear during the middle age. In addition, Huntington disease and Parkinson’s disease are examples of model diseases. Of several akinetic-rigid syndromes, Parkinson’s disease is the most common while Huntington’s disease is only one among a growing number of trinucleotide repeat disorders.
Comparing and Contrasting Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease
Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease are both examples of neurodegenerative diseases caused by several malfunctions within the motor sector of the nervous system. The surplus or absence of hormones leads to those malfunctions, which are a direct result of the deterioration of neural cells within the brain. In addition, both diseases make an illustration of two different behavioral patterns that are usually caused by two extreme and opposite biological abnormalities (Hague, Klaffke & Bandmann, 2005). However, the common thread that exists between the two diseases is that major mechanical predicaments arise between cellular connections with the brain. Therefore, the death of the cells acts as a major link between the two diseases.The cause of neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease involves a process where chemical interactions of an abnormal nature lead to motor problems. The brain acts as the communication headquarter of the body, and it obtains a myriad of information from different parts of the sensory system and processes it in an organized manner. After processing and organizing the information, the brain then relays sensory input to different sections of the motor system. The messages sent from the brain dictate specific behavioral and muscular patterns.
Furthermore, the brain has two areas that relate to motor malfunctions. These are the striatum and the substania nigra. The cells of the nigra synapse with those of the striatum, which act as the controller of motor functions. These motor functions are balance, walking, as well as muscular movement (Macerollo, Perry, Stamelou, Batla, Mazumder, Adams et al., 2014). Information originating from the nigra cells goes through the synapses with the help of dopamine, a specific hormone that plays the role of transmitting chemical in the brain.
In both diseases, the assemblage of the nigra-striatum neural communication is hampered in a severe manner. In addition, Parkinson’s disease occurs when there is depletion in the amount of dopamine that the brain produces. During the disease’s initial stages, the dopamine-secreting cells of the substania nigra experience a mass cell death either because of environmental toxins or genetic factors. Therefore, the nigra cells experience challenges in forming synapses through which they relay and secrete dopamine to the striatum in neural circuits within the basal ganglia.
In contrast, Huntington’s disease is not a condition triggered by the environment as Parkinson’s disease is believed. Huntington’s disease is a condition that arises because of the death of cells in the brain. However, a major cause of the disease is an abnormal gene that codes for mutant proteins referred to as huntingtin (Gupta, Dawson & Dawson, 2008). Therefore, huntingtin interferes with the functions of a normal brain cell leading to neural death and depletion in neural cellular energy. Furthermore, there is another way that one can use to describe Huntington’s disease as being an opposite condition to Parkinson’s disease. This has to do with both biological and behavioral symptoms related to the neurodegenerative diseases. As previously mentioned, the striatum acts as a coordination center for all chemical messengers. For this reason, when the dopamine levels decrease in Parkinson’s disease, the stratium undergoes a chemical imbalance. The lack of control of the nigra of the stratium and the disabilities of the stratium as a result of abnormal levels of dopamine leads to inhibition of muscular movements since the basal ganglia plays an inhibitory role on the spinal motor centers. Therefore, macroscopic abnormalities arise because of the microscopic dysfunctions.
There are several symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. However, tremor is the most-prominent symptom associated with the disease. In most cases, tremor starts in one extremity and gets worse with precipitating factors such as fatigue, stress, as well as cold weather. In addition, the tremor associated with Parkinson’s disease occurs predominantly at rest, and it causes slowness in the movement of the patient. They delay in initiating movements occurs happens because the brain is unable to transmit the necessary instructions, at a normal rate to the body. Furthermore, patients suffering from a medical condition experience challenges in carrying out day to day activities such as walking, dressing, as well as household chores (Ferrer, 2011). Other symptoms that appear later as the disease progresses are the inability to swallow and poor balance. Moreover, is a person suffering from the disease walks, he, or she has a non-existent or decreased arm swing, difficulty in negotiating turns, as well as short shuffling.
The second prominent symptom associated with the disease is rigidity. The characteristics associated with the symptom include stiffness in the muscles and increased tone. Rigidity causes a stooped posture and sometimes mask-like facial expressions on the patient. As with Huntington’s disease, depression is common during the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. According to estimates, half of the people suffering from the disease have high chances of developing depression. Furthermore, just like Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease leads to anxiety and can cause panic attacks on the patient. Symptoms associated with anxiety include sweating, breathlessness, choking, discomfort in the chest, as well as dizziness. In cases of a severe nature, patients may experience feelings of fear, such as the fear of going insane, or the fear of dying.
On the other hand, the symptoms associated with Huntington’s disease are both cognitive and behavioral. The symptoms occur as a direct result of the neurological changes that develop in the brain. One of the most-common behavioral symptoms associated with Huntington’s disease is apathy, which occurs when the nerve cells that control emotions in the brain die (Hague, Klaffke & Bandmann, 2005). In addition, sufferers of the disease are unable to control their emotional intensities as a result of the deterioration of the area of the brain referred to as the caudate nucleus. The patients’ inability to control their emotional intensities exposes them to a potential irritability, frustration, as well as aggression.
Moreover, there are cognitive changes that arise at the start of the disease because of the neuronal damage. For example, the degeneration in the brain affects the patient’s ability to communicate and initiate a conversation. Furthermore, a patient suffering from the cognitive symptoms associated with Huntington’s disease may experience challenges in judgment, memory, and problem-solving. In addition, the tasks that the patient found simple in the past become difficult to perform in an efficient manner. A patient suffering from the disease also experiences challenges with visual spatial impairment, organization, as well as awareness.
Parkinson’s disease does not have a specific test, making it a challenging condition to diagnose, especially during the early stages. A combination of signs and symptoms of the disease, usually referred to as Parkinsonism may have other causes which include progressive supra nuclear palsy, dementia with lewd bodies, toxins, some types of stroke, and head injuries, among others. In addition, a general practitioner who is mostly the first healthcare professional that people consult bases diagnosis on the signs and symptoms, the results of clinical examination, as well as the medical history of the patient. Moreover, a general practitioner will find it challenging to diagnose the condition in a definitive manner during the early stages because the symptoms are usually mild (Baumann, 2012). Furthermore, if the general practitioner suspects that a patient has Parkinson’s disease, he, or she will recommend the patient to a neurologist.
It is essential that the doctor has experience with all the disorders that can pose as Parkinson’s disease. In terms of medical history, the doctor has to know about any drugs that the patient is taking, or was taking in the past. In addition, the doctor should find out whether the patient has close family members suffering or have suffered from the disease. Furthermore, neurological examination conducted by a neurologist evaluates the patient’s coordination, walking, as well as simple hand tasks. The doctor can also check the status of the patient’s sense of smell and prescribe Parkinson’s disease medication because if it assists in dealing with the symptoms it can assist in finding out whether a patient is suffering from the disease.
Some tests that a specialist can order in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease are a blood test and positron emission tomography scan. The blood test aims at ruling out other conditions such as liver damage and abnormal thyroid hormone levels. On the other hand, the purpose of a positron emission tomography scan is detecting whether the dopamine levels in the brain are low.
For Huntington’s disease, the diagnosis process is similar to that of Parkinson’s disease. For example, if the general practitioner suspects that a patient has symptoms related to the disease, he, or she recommends the patient to a clinician who has specialist expertise in the condition. During the diagnosis process, a neurologist interviews the individual in an intensive manner with the aim of obtaining a medical history and rule out other conditions. The tool that physicians use in the diagnosis of Huntington’s disease is taking the family history, sometimes referred to as genealogy or pedigree (Asscher & Koops, 2009). It is essential for family members to be truthful and candid with the physician seeking a family medical history.
Furthermore, during the diagnosis process, the doctor will ask about recent emotional or intellectual problems because they can be indications of Huntington’s disease. In addition, the doctor tests the person’s strength coordination, hearing, reflexes, eye movements, balance movement, mental status, and probably conduct laboratory tests. People suffering from Huntington’s disease usually have impairments in the way the eyes follow or fix on moving targets. However, abnormalities related to eye movements vary from one person to another, and they differ depending on the duration and stage of the illness.
The discovery of a gene associated with Huntington’s disease in the year 1993 led to a direct genetic test to confirm or make a diagnosis of the disease in a person exhibiting symptoms associated with the disease. The genetic test makes use of blood samples to analyze the DNA for the Huntington’s disease mutation. It achieves this by detecting the number of repeats in the diseases gene region. People who do not have the disease mostly have twenty-eight or fewer CAG repeats. On the other hand, people suffering from the disease have forty or more repeats. In addition, during the diagnosis process, the doctor can ask an individual to undergo brain imaging test.
Currently, there is no cure for the two neurological diseases. For Parkinson’s disease, therapy concentrates on the treatment of symptoms that undermine the quality of life of a patient. There is no best, or standard treatment that applies to everybody since people have varying levels of severity, as well as symptoms. The treatment approaches for the disease include surgery, medication, and physical therapy, modification of general lifestyle, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and support groups (Cronin-Golomb, 2013).
Medication is a treatment approach in Parkinson’s disease. The use of drugs aims at replenishing dopamine levels or mimicking its actions since most symptoms of the disease arise as a result of low dopamine levels in the brain. Dopaminergic drugs can achieve this, and they reduce rigidity, help with coordination, improve speed, and reduce tremor.
Surgery is the other treatment approach used in Parkinson’s disease. Surgery involves deep brain stimulation. This is a surgical procedure that treats different disabling neurological symptoms such as rigidity, tremor, slowed movement, stiffness, as well as walking difficulties. During the surgical procedure, electrical impulses are sent from the neuro stimulator, through the wire, and into the brain through the electrode (Tsunemi & Spada, 2012). They interfere with the electrical signals that lead to the symptoms, blocking them effectively. Furthermore, deep brain simulation is a procedure carried out when the patient is in the developed stages of the disease and experiences unstable medication response. Risks associated with the procedure include brain infection and hemorrhage. In addition, patients who do not respond to carbidopa-levodopa therapy cannot benefit from the procedure.
Some of the alternative therapies associated with the treatment of the disease are herbal remedies, massage, and acupuncture. Nutrition is the other treatment option. Since some patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease suffer from constipation, adequate fluid consumption, as well as diets high in fiber is essential in reducing the severity of constipation.
As discussed earlier, there is no cure for Huntington’s disease. Therefore, its progress cannot be slowed down or reversed. However, just like Parkinson’s disease, it is possible to manage some of the symptoms with therapies and medication. A team of specialists can coordinate the therapies and medication. The therapies that can assist with day to day living and communication are occupational therapy and speech and language therapy (Jauhar & Ritchie, 2010). In addition, regular exercise is essential because people who keep active feel much better both mentally and physically than those who do not keep active. Moreover, for the patients, coordination may be poor, but walking in an independent manner while using walking aids when necessary can make all the difference.
In terms of medication, patients can take medicines for the disease in liquid form. However, most of the drugs have side effects such as restlessness, fatigue, and hyper-excitability. It becomes challenging for a physician to tell whether the symptoms are of the disease or as a result of the medication. Furthermore, physicians should consider the use of antidepressants because they can treat depression associated with the disease and improve mood swings. However, they have side effects such as sweating, constipation, difficulty in sleeping, as well as trembling or shaking (Hartelius, 2010).
Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease are both examples of neurodegenerative diseases caused by several malfunctions within the motor sector of the nervous system. The cause of neurodegenerative diseases involves a process where chemical interactions of an abnormal nature lead to motor problems (Gupta, Dawson & Dawson, 2008). In terms of diagnosis, Parkinson’s disease does not have a specific test as compared to Huntington’s disease. Lastly, currently there is no cure for the two neurological diseases. However, the symptoms associated with the diseases can be managed through the use of therapies and medication.